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WASHINGTON - The push for an unprecedented second impeachment of President Donald Trump took a bipartisan turn Tuesday when several senior House Republicans joined the Democratic effort to remove him for his role in inciting a mob last week to storm the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, and Rep. John Katko of New York, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Trump was responsible for the violence of one week ago. They were joined by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a frequent Trump critic.
'The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement. 'There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Katko's language was similarly strong. 'To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequences is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” he said.
Kinzinger added, 'If these actions ... are not worthy of impeachment, then what is an impeachable offense?”
A senior administration official said the White House expects at least a dozen Republicans to support impeachment in the House vote planned for Wednesday.
House members prepared Tuesday evening for a preliminary step toward impeachment - a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to use their powers under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump now.
However, before the vote, Pence delivered a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejecting that possibility.
In the letter, Pence said he did not yield to pressure last week 'to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.”
Trump, now barred from Twitter, for the first time lacked the ability to aim angry tweets at those who oppose him. He has asked Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to urge fellow Republicans to oppose impeachment, an official said.
The Republican statements supporting impeachment - which came after Trump delivered remarks earlier Tuesday expressing no regret for his actions - represented a watershed moment. They signaled high-level GOP concern about the role of Trump and other party leaders in spreading conspiracy theories about the recent election, and reflected how much the political landscape has shifted since Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial in February.
In another potential sign of a changing atmosphere, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, scheduled a confirmation hearing for Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen after weeks of delays in getting hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's picks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been telling associates since the attack that Trump probably committed impeachable offenses, The New York Times first reported Tuesday.
McConnell, a close adviser said, has not decided how he will vote on impeachment and wants to hear the case first.
McConnell's office declined to comment.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has floated a censure of Trump to his caucus members as a potential alternative to impeachment, but most Democrats - including Pelosi - have dismissed that as insufficient because it comes with no consequences.
The formal debate over sanctioning Trump began Tuesday morning when the House Rules Committee readied the 25th Amendment resolution for the House floor.
The debate went from somber to angry as lawmakers sparred about Trump's culpability - and one another's.
'Rushing this resolution to the floor will do nothing to unify or heal the country,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. 'These actions, again, will only continue to divide the nation.”
In response, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., accused Jordan and others of having 'given oxygen to the president's conspiracy theories” and said appeals to civility were coming too late.
'We all want healing, but in order to get to healing, we need truth and we need accountability,” McGovern said.
Another Democrat, Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, pleaded with Jordan to acknowledge that the election was not stolen and that Biden had won it fairly.
'Yes, he's going to be president,” Jordan said, but added, 'There are serious problems with this election that deserve an investigation.”
On Tuesday, Trump called impeachment 'ridiculous” and 'a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”